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Nashville Predators 2, Columbus Blue Jackets 4 FINAL

NHL.com @NHL

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ The Nashville Predators have no one to blame but themselves for dropping to ninth place in the Western Conference standings.

Manny Malhotra matched his career high with two goals and the Columbus Blue Jackets took advantage of two costly Nashville blunders in a 4-2 victory Monday night.

``Everything adds up,'' Predators goalie Tomas Vokoun said. ``We made a few mistakes and it's 3-0 before you know it.''

Vokoun and defenseman Kimmo Timonen, both All-Stars, all but handed the Blue Jackets goals in the opening period.

Seven minutes into the period, Vokoun came out of the crease to handle the puck in the corner as Malhotra and Nashville defenseman Mark Eaton raced for the puck. Vokoun got there first, did a reverse pivot and pushed the puck off the side of the net. Malhotra, continuing to skate, picked up the puck in the slot and was all alone in front of an empty net.

``I just got on my horse and fortunately he made a bad play back there and gave me the gift,'' said Malhotra, a November waiver pickup from Dallas who has career bests of 10 goals and 17 points.

After the goal, Vokoun hung his head and slowly skated back to the cage while being taunted by Columbus fans.

``It was just my fault. It was a bad play,'' Vokoun said. ``When a goalie makes a mistake, it's in the net _ and that's what happened.''

Malhotra made it 2-0 less than two minutes later on a power play. Malhotra dropped a pass to Klesla, whose slap shot from the right point deflected off the stick of a defenseman. Malhotra was crashing the net and found the puck on his stick and his shot beat Vokoun over the shoulder, high into the net.

``It was just a juicy rebound laying there for me,'' Malhotra said.

Hundreds of hats were thrown on the ice at the 12:41 mark when it appeared Malhotra had a natural hat trick _ thanks to another gaffe by the Predators.

With Nashville on the power play, Timonen had the puck behind his own net. He nonchalantly carried it past the cage as Malhotra swooped in and stick-checked the puck loose. It slipped away from Timonen and eluded a stunned Vokoun, the puck sliding slowly into the net.

``Kimmo just put it in,'' Vokoun said.

As the hats were being cleared off the ice it was announced that Columbus defenseman Jaroslav Spacek was the last Blue Jacket to touch the puck _ Malhotra had poked at Timonen's stick and not the puck _ and was credited with the goal.

``I knew right away that I hadn't touched it,'' Malhotra said. ``I forced his stick, so he just kind of bobbled the puck. I knew right away it wasn't mine.''

Five harmless shots on goal, and Columbus had a 3-0 lead.

``It was not a prototypical game, that's for sure,'' Nashville coach Barry Trotz said sarcastically. ``Misfortune sort of hit us, and we lost our momentum _ or we gave them momentum. Obviously, they got their first goal and it just kind of ignited the rest of the period. We lost the game in the first period.''

David Ling added his first goal of the season for the Blue Jackets. Rostislav Klesla had two assists, and Marc Denis stopped 32 shots.

Greg Johnson scored his 10th goal and David Legwand added a short-handed goal in the third period for Nashville, which had won all four meetings this season and six in a row against Columbus.

``We got a couple of breaks,'' Columbus interim coach Gerard Gallant said. ``A couple of funny goals early in the hockey game made the difference.''

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